Malaysia opens corruption probe into Sarawak chief minister
The revelation by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed that Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud ("Taib") is being investigated over allegations of timber corruption has been warmly welcomed by campaigners.
During his 30 years in power as Chief Minister of the resource-rich Malaysian state of Sarawak, Taib and his family members are alleged to have amassed a fortune estimated at several billion US dollars. Taib's brother Onn controls the export of Sarawak's tropical timber through a monopoly held by one of his companies, Achi Jaya Holdings.
Research by the Swiss-based NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), alleges Taib family-owned property companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. In February 2011, BMF released a blacklist naming 49 companies in eight countries that are closely linked to the Taib family.
"The announcement of MACC's probe into the source of Taib's assets is long overdue", said the BMF executive director, Lukas Straumann, on Friday. "We are expecting the graft probe to be a fully-fledged enquiry leading to the criminal prosecution of Taib and his helpers, not just a window-dressing exercise."
Last month, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) announced a probe into Taib assets in Switzerland after Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey forwarded them a request by the BMF to freeze suspected Taib assets in Swiss banks.
"After the announcement of Malaysia's and Switzerland's probes into Taib corruption, we expect more countries to follow suit. In particular, we are hoping that the governments of Canada, Australia, the UK and the United States will start investigating Taib family assets in their countries," said Straumann.